08/09/2012, 00.00
RUSSIA

Moscow plans to prevent foreigners from creating religious organisations

by Nina Achmatova
Justice Ministry posted online draft amendments to the law "On the freedom of conscience." Experts believe changes would ban so-called alternative religions.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Russian Justice Ministry has posted on its website draft amendments to the law, "On the freedom of conscience and religious organisations," whereby foreigners or stateless people whose presence in Russia is undesirable, and Russians suspected of extremism, would be unable to establish or be members of religious organisations.

Changes apply to Article 9 of the aforementioned federal law. People, whose actions were qualified by a court as extremist or falling under the law on combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism would also be affected.

For experts cited by the daily Kommersant, the amendments are aimed at so-called alternative religions.

According to Anatoly Pchelintsev, co-chairman of the Slavic Centre for Law and Justice (SCLJ), the initiative "is not unexpected and follows the lines of a law adopted by the Tatarstan legislature" that allows only Russian citizens to establish religious organisations.

In Tatarstan's case, it is an attempt to stem foreign-inspired Muslim extremists who recently attacked moderate Muslim leaders, Pchelintsev said.

According to Alexander Verkhovsky, director of the Sova Center for Information and Analysis (which monitors extremism and racism), the changes to the law on freedom of conscience are part of growing restrictions on citizens' right to assembly and organise.

Recently, more laws were adopted imposing greater penalties on participating in unauthorised demonstrations as well as greater controls on foreign-funded NGOs.

Verkhovsky slams the changes because they are aimed at limiting "alternative religions," by preventing them from gaining legal status.

"People from banned organisations will no longer be allowed to register new ones," he told Kommersant. "The goal is to eliminate them altogether."

 

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